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Patient safety law protects some documents in court case

A New Jersey appellate court has upheld as constitutional a state law that protects the confidentiality of documents related to medical errors in order to improve patient safety. The court clarified how broadly such protection extends, saying investigative and analytical material created in compliance with the New Jersey Patient Safety Act is “absolutely protected.” However, documents generated for other purposes are subject to existing discovery rules. For doctors and hospitals, the ruling is an educational guideline for how best to structure Patient Safety Act processes within health facilities, said Melinda Martinson, assistant general counsel for the Medical Society of New Jersey, which was not involved in the case. “The bottom line is physicians need to know whether they’re strictly within the confines of the [Patient Safety Act] procedures,” she said. “It is possible that those involved in a PSA evaluation could believe that their discussions are confidential ...

NQF draws on AMA toolkit to gauge patient-friendly communication

The National Quality Forum in August endorsed a dozen measures of physician group and hospital performance in improving communication with patients who have poor health literacy or limited English proficiency. Seven of the metrics were developed by the American Medical Association’s Ethical Force Program and are used as part of its Communication Climate Assessment Toolkit. The toolkit, publicly launched in 2008, features surveys to be used with patients, executive leaders, physicians, nurses and nonclinical staff. Patients grade their experiences in understanding elements such as signage, forms, receptions and their communications with doctors and other health professionals. The survey of staff asks for their assessment of how well the health system or clinic does in providing interpreter services and training. “Effective, patient-centered communication is critical in delivering quality health care, but illness, fear, low literacy and diverse languages and cultures can mak ...

State medical society reports improvements in access to care

In Massachusetts, it may be more challenging to get care from a primary care physician than a specialist. Health care access in the state is improving, but about half of internists and family physicians still are not accepting new patients, according to a study released Aug. 8 by the Massachusetts Medical Society. In 2012, 50% of family physicians said they were taking new patients, a slight increase from 47% in 2011 and 46% in 2010. Acceptance of new patients among internists was 51% in 2012, compared with 49% in 2011. Four surveyed specialties reported much higher acceptance rates of new patients: 84% for cardiologists; 86% for obstetricians-gynecologists; 92% for gastro-enterologists; and 98% for orthopedic surgeons. The medical society’s study examined physician acceptance of new patients and Medicare and Medicaid coverage, as well as wait times for new patient appointments. The results were based on 830 telephone interviews with physician offices representing seven s ...